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Joel Guy Jr. Trial, Day 1: Guy planned parents' murder to get their money, prosecutor says

Joel Guy Jr., 32, is accused of murdering his parents, Joel Guy Sr. and Lisa Guy, in their home over Thanksgiving Weekend 2016.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Editor's note: Watch full coverage of the Joel Guy Jr. trial

A notebook found in the West Knox County home of murder victims Joel Guy Sr. and his wife, Lisa, laid out the reason they were targeted for murder, prosecutors allege.

Their son, Joel Guy Jr., wanted their money.

The prosecution alleges the notebook belonged to him, detailing his handwritten plans for stabbing them to death and inheriting their assets. Mother and father were about to cut him off from years of financial support because they were retiring and needed to save their money for themselves, Knox County prosecutor Leslie Nassios alleges.

In fact, jurors heard Monday during the prosecution’s opening statement, the then 28-year-old Guy Jr. headlined one section of his notebook “Assets.”

In the section he also detailed how he would hide his father’s body and inherit all of his mother’s life insurance - $500,000. If no one could find his father's body, he'd be left the sole beneficiary of the insurance.

“All mine,” the state says he wrote.

Detectives found the notebook in the Guy home on Goldenview Lane, along with their dismembered bodies, on Nov. 28, 2016. It was among dozens of items seized in a crime scene that covered multiple rooms in both sides of the Guy home.

They also found multiple tubs and bottles of chemicals that appeared handy for dissolving his parents' body parts.

Nassios and the defense presented opening statements Monday morning, and then Nassios began presenting her case against Guy Jr.

The first-degree murder trial is expected to take about a week. Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword is presiding.

The state is not seeking death. Guy is not offering a mental health defense.

Defense attorney John Halstead offered brief remarks to the jury in his opening statement. He thanked them for their time.

“This is a difficult time to try a case,” he said.

Amid the virus pandemic, everyone in court including jurors must wear masks, and jurors are spread throughout the right side of the courtroom. Guy's trial is one of the first major trials to be held in the county this year.

Entire court dockets had to be put off for weeks and months when COVID-19 was detected in Tennessee in March.

Guy, who lived in Baton Rouge, La., detailed other aspects of his plot in the notebook found with his things, the prosecution alleges. He'd been visiting his parents that Thanksgiving weekend 2016 before they closed up the house and moved to Surgoinsville.

Nassios told jurors he wrote mental reminders of what he needed: "killing knives" and "carving knives" so he could cut up their bodies in "small pieces."

He noted he needed a sledge hammer to "crush bones".

About his father, it appears, he wrote, "Kill him with the knife. Clean up mess before she gets home."

Indeed, evidence at the scene indicates Joel Guy Sr. was attacked Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in an upstairs exercise room while Lisa Guy was away shopping at a Walmart in the Turkey Creek area.

When she got home after lunchtime that same day, the prosecution thinks Guy Jr. stabbed her, leaving groceries strewn at the bottom of the stairs.

It was obvious the son had thought out what he needed to do to carry out the crimes, Nassios said.

He wrote that he needed to get his mother's phone and set it up so it would send him a text message while he was in Louisiana after the crimes -- all to throw off police and "prove she was alive."

He also alluded to a "fire" at the house, suggesting he planned to destroy evidence that way. It never happened, however.

Something else he contemplated but never carried out -- killing the family dog. At first, he wrote he would kill the animal, Nassios told jurors while showing an image of the writings. But then he scratched that out, deciding to "leave him alive."

Knox County detectives found it baying in an upstairs room of the home after they went inside to conduct a welfare check.

While killing and dismembering his parents Nov. 26, 2016, the state believes Guy suffered his own wounds. He tried to take care of them himself, but ultimately elected to drive back to Baton Rouge on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016 to get treatment for his hands, court proceedings have shown.